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The Late Great Townes Van Zandt
on 19 September 2008
Townes Van Zandt has a lot of CDs available and not all of them are good. Be careful what you buy. Check out the reviews and track listings on Amazon first. In my opinion there are too many later CDs which are just repacked old songs with little or no new material. I love his music but I am not prepared to pay full album price for one or two songs. Therefore I was unsure where to start with his back catalogue then I found this boxset.
The box set is amazing value. You get Townes first 7 albums (and arguabley his best) plus a live CD for £14. All of these CDs contain Townes songwriting at its most prolific and his best. The first CD contains his first two albums and is possibly the weakest (but by no means weak) of the set. This is because of his first album which was overproduced and they added in some questionable backing arrangements to Townes' songs. This is particularly noticable on the classics like Waitin Round to Die and Tecumseh Valley. This does not ruin the songs but it is not the way the songs were meant to sound (compare the 1st version of Tecumseh Valley from his first album on CD1 to the second version also on CD1 but from his second album) and by all accounts Townes himself was not overly impressed with the sound of his first album.
For those unaware of Townes, his songs vary between country, folk and blues. My personal favorites are when Townes' songs are at their most dark, vulnerable, fragile and beautiful. However, he also does some good upbeat numbers, talking blues and humourous songs. Townes was a poet and as such expect to find most songs filled with beautiful and intelligent lyrics. He was not the greatest singer in the world but his voice fits perfectly to his own songs and I have not heard any better versions of his songs than his own.
Townes did re-record many of his best known songs on several of the albums here so there is some repitition but the songs are so strong that you cannot get fed up hearing them and there are also many hidden gems that I fail to understand how they are not better known (such as "Like a Summer Thursday" and "Snow Don't Fall").
I am reviewing this box set and not Mr Van Zandt as a whole but in my opinion the albums in this boxset are his best and are pure classics that you will come back to time and again and never tire of listening to. Townes was a very flawed character and as such his talent suffered. He was never as prolific again in his career but there are some decent later albums that contain mostly new material and I am now seeking them out.
Townes Van Zandt seems to instill a strong sense of loyalty and awe amongst those who appreciate his music. Will everyone like this? No of course not but his talent cannot be denied (I don't doubt Madonna's talent but her music just isn't my thing) and if you like (mostly acoustic) folk, country and blues then you should love Townes. Once you have discovered him you will want everyone else to hear and like his music as much as you do. I haven't and probably can't (in words) say just how much I love these songs. This is by far the best CD (for value and content) that I have ever bought.